The Durban Qalanders landed the first surprise of the T20 Global League draft, as they decided against the local knowledge of Kevin Pietersen as an overseas player, and opted for Eoin Morgan instead.
From the first reveal, back in a plush London hotel, the maverick known as “KP” had maintained that Durban would be the most logical destination for him.
Raised here, bred here, and a Dolphins overseas player in recent years, it did make sense. But, this is a new era, and the chance to establish new links.
The Qalanders management played their hand early, and Pietersen will instead turn out for the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars, where he will link up with his regular golfing buddy Mark Boucher.
The Qalanders’ coach Paddy Upton and Proteas marquee star Hashim Amla will have had a very busy week, analysing just what would serve the needs of the Durban franchise best.
Durban also had the fortune of having the first pick of the main draft last Sunday morning, and their mind would have been made up well in advance.
In Chris Morris they have acquired the services of one of South Africa’s premier all-rounders, and a player who has shown an ability to win games with bat or ball.
Tellingly, he has also elevated that game to the next level, playing a strong hand in the Indian Premier League.
Those credentials would have been enough to convince many a suitor to pay top-dollar for the lanky Morris, and he knows that much is expected.
“I’m looking forward to being based in Durban,” Morris said. “I was quite surprised to be the first pick. Humbled, actually,” he added.
Morris was followed by the international skills of players such as Englishman Sam Billings, Kiwi Mitchell McClenaghan, Pakistanis Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez, and supplemented by the likes of Junior Dala, Cody Chetty, Kelly Smuts and Bjorn Fortuin.
They also have a strong KZN flavour, with Dolphins players such as Prenelan Subrayan and Mthokozisi Shezi providing experience, while the fit-again Daryn Dupavillon could be a surprise package.
He is rumoured to have picked up a yard of pace, and is looking to again establish himself in the Dolphins set-up. By the time November comes around, he may well be up to full speed, and chomping at the bit to play on a bigger stage.
But, for all the local potential, the owners and fans will be looking to the heavyweights in the squad to deliver.
Zaman is coming off a stellar Champions Trophy tournament, where he shone as Pakistan’s rock at the top of the order.
Hafeez needs no introduction, as the veteran has delivered on the international stage for over a decade.
The left-armer McLenaghan enjoyed Kingsmead when he toured with the Kiwis, and he will provide some handy variety to the attack.
Before the draft, there was little for the fans to truly grasp and hold onto. Now, with a full squad of players, a logo, a fixture list and a vision revealing itself, the journey to November suddenly looks much shorter.
Between now and then, there will be significant promotion of all these names that are new or distant to the Durban market.
Somewhere, in amongst the domestic fixtures, there will be posters popping up all over the city, adorning poles with the Qalander hues, as Lahore comes to Natal.
This will no half-hearted gesture, either. The Rana brothers, led by the gregarious Fawad Rana, have expressed their desire to really leave an imprint on their adopted home.
They plan to drive the length and breadth of Natal, inspiring and touching lives.
They did the same back home, with thousands of applicants turning out, trying to be part of their Lahore Qalanders’ franchise.
There will be no need for that scale of trials here, with all the players already in place. What they will look to recruit is an army of fans, thousands who will flock to Kingsmead and take their new franchise to heart.
Nearly all the pieces of the puzzle are in place, but the fans are that final link. If they show up, then all the investment, all the effort, the agonising and the excitement will be worth it.
In just nine weeks, the show begins. The Qalanders will be ready.
Durban Qalandars Squad
Hashim Amla, Fakhar Zaman, Eoin Morgan, Mohammad Hafeez, Nicky van den Bergh, Chris Morris, Qaasim Adams, Mitchell McLenaghan, Bjorn Fortuin, Junior Dala, Prenelan Subrayan, Cody Chetty, Daryn Dupavillon, Sam Billings, Kelly Smuts, Marques Ackerman, Mthokozisi Shezi, Migael Pretorius.